Hiram College

Hiram College’s Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature has received a $17,050 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to host The Big Read in Portage County, focusing on “The Things They Carried” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Tim O’Brien. This is Hiram’s second Big Read grant; it hosted a Big Read in January and February of 2009 focusing on Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon.”

As the NEA says, “Tracing the tour of one American platoon, this book is not just a tale of the Vietnam War, although it’s considered one of the finest books ever about combat. This award-winning book is a brutal, sometimes funny, often profound narrative about the human heart—how it fares under pressure, and what it can endure.”

Hiram College is one of just 75 not-for-profits—including arts and cultural organizations, libraries and universities—to receive a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2010 and June 2011. The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature. Since the 2006 pilot program with 10 participating organizations, the NEA has given more than 800 grants to support local Big Read projects.

“Hiram College is excited to engage the community in a timely and thought-provoking book by a contemporary American author,” said Paul Gaffney, Hiram College assistant professor of English and Big Read director. “It is our hope that these events will lead to positive and enriching discussions about issues of war and memory within Portage County.”

In planning the Big Read events, Hiram is partnering with numerous Portage County organizations, including Kent State University, Portage County District Library, Reed Memorial Library, Kent Free Library, WKSU, PARTA and the Record-Courier. Big Read activities will take place throughout the month of October 2010. Highlights include a visit by author O’Brien; presentations by local authors Peter Scott, Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer; a reading by poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Chana Bloch; a musical performance of Vietnam War era music; dramatic readings; movie screenings; book discussions; postcards for current overseas troops and an exhibit of art by Vietnamese children on the themes of peace and war.

“The arts in general – and literature, in particular – often serve as an expression of our shared values,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “This is exactly why they are so effective as a fulcrum for community engagement. Thanks to these 75 grants, communities nationwide will be inspired, delighted and challenged by a book they are discovering for the first time, or an old favorite to which they are returning.”

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read has been provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Boeing Company, the Poetry Foundation and the Ford Motor Company.

For more information about The Big Read please visit www.neabigread.org.